How Cristiano Ronaldo nearly signed with Manchester City before Manchester United return

Cristiano Ronaldo - Manchester United - December 30, 2021

Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United in August 2021 was a landmark moment for the Old Trafford side, but the Portuguese forward’s career path could have taken a very different route.

Widespread reports at the time claimed Manchester City, not United, were the ones leading the chase for Ronaldo with Pep Guardiola keen to add a recognized No. 9 to his squad following the exit of Sergio Aguero.

It’s believed Guardiola spoke to Ronaldo about the possibility of joining the Premier League champions only for Manchester United to swoop in, motivated by the prospect of a club legend signing for one of their closest rivals.

Ronaldo has since suffered through a difficult season at Old Trafford with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced by Ralf Rangnick just a few months after the 37-year-old signed. Did Ronaldo, and Manchester United, make the right decision?

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How close was Ronaldo to joining City?

On the morning of August 27, Ronaldo looked to be well on his way to Manchester City. ESPN reported that the Portuguese forward was “close to reaching an agreement” to join Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium.

City had publicly pursued Harry Kane throughout the summer transfer window with the Tottenham Hotspur striker even refusing to train in an effort to force through a move to the Premier League champions.

Spurs dug their heels in and refused to sell their top scorer to a team they saw as a direct rival, especially not for a fee they felt was under market value. And by the time Man City stepped up their offer, it was too late in the transfer window for Spurs to find a Kane replacement and the move fell through despite all the chatter.

This prompted Manchester City to explore other options with Ronaldo and Dusan Vlahovic mentioned as targets at the time. Ronaldo’s signing from Juventus appeared the most feasible with the Italian club focused on rebalancing its books after the financial difficulties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This, however, pushed Manchester United into action. Solskjaer called chief executive Ed Woodward to explore whether the club could hijack City’s deal before a group of former United players, including Rio Ferdinand, and Sir Alex Ferguson made a personal plea to the player himself to return to Old Trafford.

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How did Man United re-sign Ronaldo?

By the afternoon of August 27, the story had shifted entirely. City were reported to be out of the running with United growing in confidence that Ronaldo would sign.

A private plane waited on the runway in Turin to take Ronaldo away from Juventus and while the 37-year-old flew to Portugal rather than England, the deal for a return to the Red Devils was announced not longer after he landed in his homeland.

Ronaldo completed the fairytale by scoring twice in front of a rapturous Old Trafford crowd on his second Manchester United debut against Newcastle United. This, however, was a false sign of things to come as Ronaldo and United hit a rough patch.

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Could Ronaldo leave Man United in the summer?

Under new manager Rangnick, Ronaldo appears something of a tactical misfit. While the German coach favors a high-press that demands energy and mobility from his attackers, the 37-year-old lacks the physical capacity to play in such a way.

A total of 15 goals in 29 appearances still represents a respectable return for Ronaldo this season, but reports claim he is open to the idea of leaving Manchester United this summer.

Ronaldo is believed to be unhappy with United’s recent form, although Rangnick has also urged the Portuguese striker to be more clinical in front of goal. “He should score more goals, it's obvious,” Rangnick recently admitted.

Bayern Munich, Roma and Paris Saint-Germain have been linked (via The Sun) with a move for Ronaldo who will still have another year left to run on his Manchester United contract this summer.